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Effectiveness of interventions to improve lifestyle behaviors among socially disadvantaged children in Europe

27 Mar 2017


Background: Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and childhood overweight are more common among children from families with a low socioeconomic position and ethnic minority children (referred to as social disadvantaged children). Aims: This systematic review evaluates the effectiveness of interventions aimed to improve lifestyle behaviours and/or prevent overweight among socially disadvantaged children in Europe. Methods: Six major databases were searched for studies reporting intervention effects on adiposity measures, sedentary behaviours, physical activity behaviours or dietary behaviours. Studies were included when the study sample consisted of at least 50% socially disadvantaged children or when results were presented for subgroups of socially disadvantaged children separately. Methodological quality assessment was based on Cochrane criteria. Results: In total, 11 studies reporting on eight interventions (one among infants 0–2 years, one among preschoolers 2–6 years, six among school-aged children 6–12 years) were identified. Of these eight interventions, five interventions primarily aimed to improve at least one adiposity measure and three primarily aimed to improve a specific lifestyle behaviour. In general, modest positive effects were found but interventions were limited by a short follow-up duration. Conclusions: Despite an urgent need for effective interventions to improve lifestyle behaviours and prevent overweight among socially disadvantaged children, research on the effectiveness of interventions in Europe is still scarce. Those interventions that have been evaluated show modest effects on lifestyle behaviours and adiposity measures, but long-term follow-up is needed to establish whether these effects are sustained over a longer period of time.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in European Journal of Public Health